The New Year brings with it much hope and a sense of renewal. We often mark it with a number of rituals that serve to deliver a clean break from our past and help us work towards creating a better future. Around the world, these customs and practices may only last for one day but they nevertheless help to enrich our culture and our lives. To mark upcoming New Year celebrations, we’ve come up with some of the most interesting and unique traditions that we could find:
Japan – Joya no kane is a traditional belling ringing ceremony held in Buddhist temples across Japan. The bells are rung 108 times to cleanse themselves of each of the worldly desires and anxieties central to Buddhism. The last bell is rung at the stroke of midnight to bring in the New Year.
Germany – In Germany, the tradition of ‘lead pouring’ helps to predict what the New Year will bring. A piece of metal, traditionally lead but now tin due to risk of lead poisoning, is melted down and placed in a container with cold water and the resulting shape tells you your future. A ball means good luck while a fox means self-initiative.
Denmark – The number of smashed plates outside your door on New Year’s Day in Denmark is a sign of how much affection people have for you and the amount of good luck you will have. People smash plates outside neighbour’s and friends’ doors to signify that they are leaving behind the aggression and ill-will they carry from the previous year.
Philippines – Circles are considered a sign of wealth in the Philippines so having anything round is meant to represent prosperity in the coming year. That means polka dot dresses and the eating of round fruits is common. The tradition is linked to the resemblance of round objects to gold and silver coins in years gone by.
Greece – Vasilopita or St Basil’s Pie, is a tradition that dates back centuries to when St Basil, a bishop, implored citizens to raise money (coins and jewelry) to stop a siege. Having stopped the siege, he tried to return the items but no one would accept them. So he baked the items into bread and distributed it back that way. These days, anyone who finds a coin is said to have good luck for the next year.